Late Surge Pushes NorthPointe to D3 Win
June 8, 2019
By Tom Kendra
Special for Second Half
BIG RAPIDS – Grand Rapids NorthPointe Christian trailed Big Rapids by eight strokes Saturday, with time running out.
Sensing his team needed a boost, both physically and mentally, fourth-year NorthPointe coach Erik Fahlen handed out Snickers bars to all five of his players with four holes remaining.
Those Snickers must have really satisfied.
The Mustangs staged a furious rally, with four golfers making birdies during the closing stretch to pull off a three-stroke victory in the Lower Peninsula Division 3 Final over hard-luck Big Rapids, which was playing at home on Katke Golf Course in Big Rapids.
“We had an incredible final four holes,” said Fahlen, whose team repeated as a Finals champion after winning the Division 4 title last year. “We gave them those candy bars just as way of reminding them that it’s close and they need to finish strong.”
NorthPointe finished with a two-day total of 624, with Big Rapids second at 627. Grosse Ile was a distant third at 664, followed by Napoleon (672) and Grand Rapids West Catholic (676).
Erik Fahlen Jr., the coach’s senior son and reigning Division 4 medalist, placed second this time and led the way for his team with steady, back-to-back rounds of 73.
Junior Lance VanErmen bounced back from an 81 on Friday with a 77 in windy conditions Saturday. But the key score Saturday for NorthPointe came from freshman Luke Schrock, who followed up an 83 with a 79 to give the Mustangs three scores in the 70s and provide the winning margin.
“It feels really good to help the team win,” said Schrock, who stayed calm despite a mid-round triple bogey. “We knew it was going to be close. I just tried to focus on every shot and not mess up.”
Schrock’s clutch round capped off a memorable end of the season for the 15-year-old. His 83 as the fifth man actually delivered the Mustangs a Regional title May 29, after the top four players tied with West Catholic’s.
Also figuring in the scoring for NorthPointe at the Final were sophomore Sam Nelson (76-82-158) and senior Ben Ng (85-82-167).
Hanover-Horton junior Jack Brockie captured the individual medalist honor after firing an impressive 3-under-par 69 on Saturday. His two-day total of 2-under 142 (73-69) was good for a four-stroke victory over Fahlen and Cheboygan senior Zachary Gilder (72-74-146).
“My putting was much better today,” explained Brockie, who qualified for the Final as an individual. “The strength of my game is my driving, and when I struggle, it’s around the greens. But today I was good on the greens.”
It proved to be a tough result to stomach, once again, for Big Rapids, which placed second for the third straight year. The perennially strong Cardinals last won a Finals title in 2008, but since have finished second five times.
Last year, the Cardinals actually tied for first with Hanover-Horton, but lost on the fifth-man tiebreaker.
This year, it looked like they would take the next step after having four players shoot 80 or better on Friday and build a five-stroke lead over NorthPointe Christian. Plus, they had the advantage of playing on their home course, with their school located adjacent to Katke’s 12th fairway.
Big Rapids maintained its lead for most of Saturday, led by senior standout Pierce Morrissey (74-75-149), before NorthPointe’s late-round heroics.
“It just goes to show that you can’t ever give up during a round of golf,” said Fahlen Jr., who will play on the golf team next year at Taylor University. “It was really a total team win. I mean, to have a freshman like Luke Schrock shoot a 79 in these conditions, is huge. The wind really picked up later in the day, and it got pretty tough out there.
“I think that’s the best part about today – we came through under pressure.”
PHOTOS: (Top) Golfers watch from the tee during Saturday’s LP Division 3 second round. (Middle) A competitor fires an approach from the sand. (Click to see more from HighSchoolSportsScene.com.)
Mid Peninsula's Boys Sweep UPD3 Titles, Including 1st Team Championship
By Jason Juno
Special for MHSAA.com
June 1, 2023
HYDE – The Rock Mid Peninsula boys won their first Upper Peninsula Finals boys golf championship Thursday, earning it in Division 3 at Highland Golf Club near Escanaba.
The Wolverines finished with a score of 324, 13 strokes fewer than runner-up Ontonagon.
“It’s the first time in school history for us, so we’re pretty excited about it,” Mid Pen coach Earlene VanDamme said. “The kids put a lot of work into this year.”
They did it with three golfers among the individual top five, led by medalist Bradly VanDamme, who shot a 77, and tournament runner-up Michael Englund, who carded a 78. Christian VanDamme was close behind with an 81, which was good for a fifth-place tie.
The three golfers have shot consistently around 80 all year.
“Our top three boys were pretty equivalent. They were within one or two strokes of each other,” Coach VanDamme said. “I kept messing with the order. It didn’t matter where I put them, it always ended up that they were just all always kind of consistent.”
Bradly VanDamme said he has been shooting consistently in the 80s. He shot an 80 here during a practice round.
“So a 77 today was huge,” he said. “I never expected to play as good as I did today.”
Fixing a key part of his game helped.
“I got off the tee well; usually that’s my struggle,” VanDamme said. “But every tee, I just thought, if I can keep this one in play and keep it in the fairway, then this course is pretty easy if you can keep it in the fairway.”
He said he was happiest about the team title.
“It’s great. All the guys are really excited. That was our goal coming into this – we didn’t care how we all individually placed, we just wanted to win as a team,” he said.
That’s the way team leaders think.
“Bradly is a strong leader for the team,” Coach VanDamme said. “He continuously is just prepping the team, saying, ‘Come on guys, this is about the team score. We all need to do this.’”
His brother Christian VanDamme was just four strokes behind him.
“It helps that (Bradly’s) brother is on the team because he is very competitive with him,” said Coach VanDamme, who also is Bradly and Christian’s mother. “And they put a lot of extra practice in trying to better themselves, so they do practice a lot.”
Ontonagon was team runner-up for the second year in a row.
The Gladiators were led by Abi Pestka, who finished in third place and shot an 80, and Jerry Majurin, who tied Christian VanDamme with an 81.
“That’s the best the boys have done as a group,” Ontonagon coach Jim Jessup said. “Everybody was fairly close in terms of their scores.”
PHOTOS (Top) Rock Mid Peninsula celebrates its first UP Finals championship in boys golf Thursday. (Middle) Big Bay de Noc’s Nick Desjarden watches a tee shot at Highland Golf Club. (Below) Watersmeet’s Edmond Williams putts during his round. (Photos by Jason Juno.)